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NEWS DIGEST: Open Doors founder dies; Marilynn Blackaby dies

Open Doors founder and famed Bible smuggler ‘Brother Andrew’ dies at age 94

By Religion News Service Staff

SANTA ANA, Calif. (RNS) – Anne Van der Bijl, the founder of international nonprofit Open Doors, and known around the world as “Brother Andrew,” died Sept. 27 at the age of 94 at his home in the Netherlands, according to a family spokesperson.

Brother Andrew gives a lecture in 2007. Photo by Jako Jellema/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Brother Andrew was the founder of Open Doors, the oldest worldwide ministry to persecuted Christians. Under Brother Andrew’s leadership, Open Doors’ presence expanded through more than 60 countries, where it currently provides Bibles, emergency relief, vocational training, community rebuilding and other help to Christians who are persecuted because of their faith. Open Doors is celebrating 67 years of ministry in 2022.

Brother Andrew earned the nickname “God’s Smuggler” for his daring Bible deliveries behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War and was known by many for his adventurous faith and intensely devoted prayer life.

“Brother Andrew was an ordinary man who chose to go to hard places and do amazing things for one reason: He was following Jesus,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “One of the most interesting and well-known Christian leaders of our time, his passing indeed leaves a great void. But we believe, as he did, that God will raise people up to continue His good work in the persecuted church, to be the Brother Andrews of our generation.”

Born in 1928, Brother Andrew grew up in the Netherlands. After enduring the German occupation during World War II, he went to Poland with a suitcase full of Christian material. There Brother Andrew discovered that churches behind the Iron Curtain were isolated, sparking his passion to serve them and ultimately leading him to form the ministry that became Open Doors.

His 1957 border crossing into Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe in a bright, blue Volkswagen Beetle stuffed with illegal Bibles is memorialized in his 1967 autobiography, God’s Smuggler. The first of 16 books written by Brother Andrew, it has sold more than 12 million copies and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

The Bible smuggling reached an apex in June 1981 when an Open Doors crew nosed a custom-built barge onto the China coastline under the cover of darkness. They floated one million Bibles contained in 232 packages, to a small, silent army of waiting Chinese Christians, who spirited them into the country.

“Our very mission is called ‘Open Doors’ because we believe that all doors are open, anytime and anywhere,” Brother Andrew often explained. “I literally believe that every door is open to go in and proclaim Christ, as long as you are willing to go and are not worried about coming back.”

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew turned his attention to the Islamic World, believing the rapid spread of radical, militant expressions of Islam posed the greatest challenge yet to religious freedom worldwide.

Brother Andrew was married for 59 years to his wife, Corry, who died in 2018. They lived all of their lives in Holland and are survived by five children and 11 grandchildren.

Marilynn Blackaby, wife of ‘Experiencing God’ author Henry Blackaby, dies at 83

By The Alabama Baptist Staff

JONESBORO, Ga. (BP) – Marilynn Blackaby, 83, died Sept. 29 after a short battle with liver cancer.

Marilynn and Henry Blackaby

“Over the last few days, we as her family have wept at our impending loss but also laughed much as we recalled so many amazing, cherished memories of our dear mother,” said a post at Blackaby Ministries International posted on its Facebook page. “She raised five children, all of whom, love and serve her Lord. She adored her 14 grandchildren, and everyone loved her dearly in return. Pray for our dad, Henry, as today is the first day in over 62 years he will face without his devoted wife at his side.”

The family announced the diagnosis in August and requested prayer for Marilynn and the family.

The Blackabys served in several churches in California before relocating to Saskatchewan, Canada, to lead a congregation that had dwindled to only 10 members. During their 18 years in Canada, they saw God work in miraculous ways, helped plant numerous churches, and reared their five children.

Spiritual legacy

The book “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God,” by Henry Blackaby, published in 1990, sold millions of copies, has been translated into more than 45 languages and has been adapted into multiple studies and formats. It was rereleased earlier this year with added videos to aid in Bible study.

In 2016, Gateway Seminary named a prayer room in honor of the Blackabys. Henry Blackaby graduated from Gateway – then Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary – as a member of the first graduating class at the seminary’s former Mill Valley campus.

During the dedication ceremony for the Henry and Marilynn Blackaby Prayer Room, Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg said the couple had made a “profound impact all around the world.”

All five of the Blackaby children serve in full-time ministry: Richard Blackaby, president of Atlanta-based Blackaby Ministries International; Thomas Blackaby, pastor of Maple Ridge Alliance Church in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada; Melvin Blackaby, pastor of First Baptist Church Jonesboro, Georgia; Norman Blackaby, a professor at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas; and Carrie Blackaby Webb, a former career missionary to Germany who now serves with Blackaby Ministries International.

The funeral will be at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, Ga., on Sun., Oct. 9.

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